City Manager releases people-centered 2023 Recommended Budget

Spending plan reflects community and council priorities, making key investments in social services, housing, and city employees

Boulder City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde today released the 2023 Recommended Budget, which confronts post-pandemic challenges in community and advances investments in compassionate and equitable services while maintaining and enhancing core city services.

The overall budget, subject to review and approval by City Council, is $513.5 million across all funds, representing an 11% increase over the 2022 Approved Budget. The General Fund is the portion of the budget that covers many of the city’s other function areas, including the maintenance of facilities, paths and parks, housing and human service programs, public safety, libraries, communications and more. The recommended General Fund budget for 2023 is $188 million, a 14.2% increase over 2022.

The year-over-year increase reflects strong local sales and use tax revenues, incorporates mid-year additions made in 2022 to meet community demand, and advances key new programs, projects, and services to meet our community’s goals. The recommended budget includes new investments in wildfire risk mitigation; behavioral health, including a non-law enforcement response pilot program; initial operations for a day services center for the unhoused; extends and expands community court and outreach services; and expands programs to effectively address expectations around safe and managed public spaces.

Areas of Focus

This budget supports the many core services the community relies upon, such as clean drinking water, public safety, transportation, affordable housing, parks and other outdoor spaces to enjoy, recreation facilities, libraries, and more, while recognizing that challenges remain to maintaining service levels and meeting our community’s high expectations.

At the same time, Boulder, like many communities across the country, faces complex challenges that require bold and innovative solutions. The 2023 Recommended Budget prioritizes the city’s limited resources with the following goals in mind:

  • Wildfire Risk Mitigation and Emergency Response. The budget enhances the urban-wildland interface management on city open space land that has proven to be so critical as we wrestle with climate change and invests in three new firefighters. Voters will also consider a new Climate Tax in November that would further bolster risk mitigation efforts through cross-departmental, leading-edge strategies.
  • Non-Law Enforcement Response. This budget continues to innovate around alternative responses for those experiencing behavioral health challenges by piloting a non-law enforcement response to behavioral health-related calls and other circumstances better suited for medical and/or clinician response.
  • Homelessness Services & Case Management. The budget advances funding for a new day center services for the unhoused and expands a human-centered community court model to ensure that individuals most at risk in our community have connections to resources and services that help them avoid continued contact with the criminal justice system.
  • Safe & Managed Public Spaces. The budget continues investments in making our public spaces safe, clean, and welcoming for all, including expanded unsanctioned camping management, extending the downtown ambassador program, and fully implementing an urban parks ranger program.
  • Key Infrastructure Investments. This budget addresses critical and exciting infrastructure needs, including Community, Culture, Resilience, and Safety Tax investments, such as the acquisition of Xcel Energy’s streetlights

Additionally, the 2023 Recommended Budget reflects a core philosophy of the organization to invest in city employees, including in competitive wages, total compensation strategies, staffing additions to balance capacity, and restorations of professional development and training opportunities.

“There is nothing more fundamental to our ability to meet community goals than our commitment to our city employees,” Rivera-Vandermyde said. “Our employees are at the forefront of addressing unprecedented environmental, economic and social challenges. It is through their strength and expertise that we move forward together in addressing these challenges with innovative solutions, seeking to elevate the quality of life for all.”

An Emphasis on Equity

Consistent with the city’s Racial Equity Plan, adopted by council in February 2021, the process for developing the 2023 Recommended Budget required departments to define outcomes; present relevant data or begin conversations about how to collect data; and explain how they plan to measure the progress of funded programs in the future. These steps are foundational in the city’s efforts to fully understand who benefits and who is burdened by its services and policies.

“The goal of achieving racial equity is a journey, but as an organization, we are committed to learning about and addressing structural and institutional racism,” Rivera-Vandermyde said. “I am especially proud of the budget proposals, across departments, that sought to prioritize the needs of populations that have long been excluded from the benefits of government.”

These include funding the stipends and programming for the award-winning community connectors program; the restoration of neighborhood grants with a portion set aside for manufactured housing communities; prioritizing a pilot for a non-law enforcement response program through Housing & Human Services; restoration of older adult services at the East Age Well Center; working on partnerships to provide additional support for community immigration services; and, enhancing community literacy and outreach through the Boulder Library.

A New Look

This year’s budget process also sought to improve transparency and accessibility for community members through newly purchased software called Boulder OpenGov. The result is a web-based budget that helps individuals navigate to the departments and programs of the most interest and better understand the work that is planned in these areas.

“Our hope is that this new format will make it easier to understand what is being funded and to determine if the resources, over time, help to achieve desired outcomes,” said Mark Woulf, senior budget manager. “As this is our first year with the software, we have implemented some, but not all, of the features. We look forward to the public’s input and to adding new ways of understanding the data and proposed expenditures in the future.”

Next steps

City Council will discuss the budget for the first time on Sept. 8 and hold a public hearing on Oct. 6. Second reading is scheduled for Oct. 20.